Millions for defense but not a penny (or $20) in tribute!
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was born in Port Washington. This means to get a copy of my birth certificate I had to make the long and arduous journey to the Ozaukee County courthouse in Port Washington. It’s a pain-in-the-neck drive complete with the hazards of getting lost and finding the state highway patrol the hard way. When I finally arrived I found out they do not take Visa. Okay, I wrote a check.
On Friday my wife was informed by the treasurer’s office in Ozaukee that the bank could not identify the account number on the check, that they want $12 in cash for the birth certificate and a $20 fee for the returned check. Again, the check was not returned due to non-sufficient funds; the check was returned because at some point in the banking process the account number entered for the check did not match the bank’s records.
My wife explained to the clerk the difference, told the clerk she was not going to pay the $20 fee, and told the clerk that if they would call a 1-800# the bank would certainly clear up that the check was indeed written on a valid bank account. My wife even confirmed the bank account number by helping the clerk find where on the check she could find the routing number and the account number.
Instead of calling the bank the clerk, apparently on instructs from the County Treasurer, told my wife that I would have to drive up there again and pay in cash for the birth certificate. The only way I could avoid paying the $20 penalty fee according to the clerk was to bring a letter from my bank stating it was a bank error, complete with an explanation of why the error took place. We asked for a copy of the check that did not go through and they waited until 3:00pm in the afternoon to fax it over.
Of course, to these petty insignificant bureaucrats in their own little fiefdom of ignorance, it seems perfectly reasonable that someone two counties away is going to make the long trip again. But because they did not fax over the check that did not go through until late Friday, I considered the issue postponed until Monday (today).
Today I tried to reach the clerk my wife dealt with, but she was out for the day. So I was put over to the voice mail of the County Treasurer Karen Makoutz (up for election in 2007).
I’m a little less reasonable than my wife. I left a message for the treasurer stating that since Ozaukee County is so far away from me, that it would really just make more sense to put a replacement check for $12 today. I then left a number for her to call me.
Now I don’t know what is the experience of most people in Ozaukee County when dealing with their treasurer. But Ms. Makoutz has a lot to learn about customer service and good manners when it comes to dealing with people from outside her little fiefdom.
When Makoutz called me back, she had the tone in her voice that I was some sort of deadbeat trying to cheat Ozaukee County out of $12. She complained that I was not sending her a check from a different bank account. I pointed out to her that as far as I am concerned the check she had in her hand was good, but that I was willing to send her another check today. She complained we promised to come in person Friday. When I pointed out to her that I didn’t get the fax until late Friday, and that I am not planning on making any trips to Ozaukee County until November, and that it was her bank’s error, she reluctantly agreed to take the check.
Then she started getting snotty with me about expecting to see it tomorrow. I pointed out that I’m mailing it today. She said that if she didn’t get the check tomorrow she would call me back and that she might have to consider some “alternative way” of collecting. At which point I almost lost it when I said, “I’m not trying to cheat your county out of $12.”
She and I went back and forth a couple of more times before I got disgusted, announced that she’ll just have to depend on the Post Office, and hung up.
So here’s my advice to Ozaukee County. Find someone competent. Find someone who isn’t sitting on a thumbtack all day waiting to take it out on the public. It’s an elective office. Somebody in all of Ozaukee County has to be better suited for dealing with the public than her. In the meantime, the check for $12 is in the mail.